City View Newsletter
Tomorrow is Election Day and it promises to be monumental in scope and significance, both nationally and locally. If you haven't already returned your mail-in ballot, please remember to do so or vote in-person at your local poll location. Voting is part of our national heritage. Voting matters!
Tuesday night, I'll be visiting several election-return parties downtown - Spitfire, Westin Hotel, South Lake Union Discovery Center, and more.
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Stop Youth Violence
Tragically, another one of our children was killed this past Friday night near Garfield High School. He's number five so far this year to be gunned down on our streets; other city kids have been killed just outside the city's boundaries.
Allen Joplin, age 17, killed by gunfire on January 3, 2008 in Belltown.
De'Che Morrison, age 14, killed by gunfire on January 11, 2008 on South Rose Street.
Perry Henderson, age 18, killed by gunfire on January 26, 2008 in the far south end of the city.
Pierre LaPoint, age 16, killed by gunfire on August 5, 2008 along Rainier Avenue South.
We must stop this violence that rips at our city's soul. Fortunately, there are specific steps we can take to make a huge difference. Other cities have done it and so can we.
Later this week, on Friday, the City Council will discuss the Mayor's proposed Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. We are likely to approve elements of the Mayor's plan, accelerate some parts, and slow down other parts until more details are known.
Over the past couple of months, my colleagues and I have attended many community meetings, spoken with police officers and teachers, rode with paramedics, listened to pastors and nonprofit organization leaders, and researched strategies that have worked in other cities. Based on these discussions and research, and recognizing that government can't single-handedly cure these problems, I believe we do need both short-term and long-term government-driven efforts.
We need an immediate "stop the violence" effort that taps proven police intervention strategies and community grassroots action - strong leadership from youth leaders, school officials, the faith community, parents, and the young people directly touched by the senselessness of this violence. We need community members, including parents, to step up and loudly proclaim that violence is not acceptable in our city. This declaration is urgently needed, but it must come from the community. Of course, city officials and police can say these things, and we do, but the power of these words increases dramatically when it's your parent, your pastor, your neighbor, your teacher, or your youth leader saying them. We all need to speak out with a unified voice.
We need to acknowledge - publicly, out loud - that we have a serious gang crisis in our city. Individuals involved in the murders I've cited were gang-involved. These are just the incidents that resulted in death; there are many more shootings that wounded but did not kill.
We need our police commanders to develop specific strategies and tactics that target violent gang-involved youth. There are likely fewer than 100 individuals in Seattle responsible for the vast majority of the youth violence we are experiencing. We need to identify and target these individuals for proactive policing and aggressive prosecution. (See the Boston Ceasefire youth violence success story to learn how another city successfully reduced youth violence.)
We need strong illegal gun intervention efforts. Our city is awash in illegal guns. Police commanders acknowledge this fact. Again, let's follow the example of other cities and adopt proven, evidence-based strategies that target the illegal gun marketplace close to retail transaction points and street-level trafficking. This requires a regional strategy involving federal law enforcement resources.
We need to return school resource officers to select middle and high schools. These police officers provide an effective bridge for young people, including those getting in trouble at school, to receive services that are positive alternatives and that steer kids away from gang involvement. These officers can also capitalize on networks of information that may defuse problems, especially retaliation violence. As you've heard me say many times before, I believe "Cops matter." Their presence is both a deterrent to crime and a reassurance of safety.
The Council is working closely with the Mayor on this issue. We'll have much more to say later this week.
Councilmember Bruce Harrell and Tina Podlodowski, CEO of Big Brothers-Big Sisters, published an opinion piece in The Seattle Times last week that highlighted the importance of mentoring in preventing youth violence.
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We'll talk again soon.